Whether you are applying for an entry-level position or a senior role, you will probably have to interview with a potential employer before receiving a job offer. Since a job interview gives you a chance to show your qualifications and make a good impression on the hiring team, you will want to perform at your best during this important meeting. In this article, we discuss how to ace an interview, including preparation tips for common job interview questions.
What should you do to ace an interview?
To increase the chances of having a successful job interview, take the time to prepare before meeting with the hiring team. Think about the topics you are likely to discuss, ways to position yourself as a strong candidate and opportunities to make a positive impression on the hiring team. Include the following in your job interview preparations:
- Research: Learn as much as you can about the company and the position.
- Planning: Carefully consider what to wear and how to present yourself professionally.
- Practice: Reflect on the most effective ways to discuss common interview subjects.
How to ace a job interview
Here are seven things to keep in mind as you prepare for a successful job interview:
1. Research your potential employer
Before your interview, research the organization so you can be knowledgeable about its accomplishments, goals and mission. Browse the company’s website to learn about its history, recent announcements, executive officers, values and culture. Then search for recent news about the organization to study its latest achievements and future goals.
You can also search the company on Indeed Company Pages to read about the company and browse reviews, open jobs, Q&A and more. Doing your research will help you contextualize your interview answers. With knowledge about the organization, you’ll be able to quickly tie your background, qualifications and achievements back to the company.
1. Research the company and your interviewers
2. Practice your answers to common interview questions
3. Study the job description
4. Answer questions using the STAR method
5. Recruit a friend to practice answering questions
6. Be prepared with examples of your work
7. Plan your interview attire the night before
8. Prepare smart questions for your interviews
9. Bring copies of your resume, a notebook and pen
10. Tie your answers back to your skills and accomplishments
2. Review the job description
Study job listing so you are prepared to explain your fitness for the job’s roles and responsibilities during your interview. Pay attention to keywords such as required skills and experience, and focus on the responsibilities that a successful candidate will have. Consider how your qualifications and goals align with the description so you can discuss relevant examples with the hiring team.
3. Practice answering interview questions
While your conversation may include several company- or job-specific topics, most interviews include at least a few standard questions. To prepare, review a list of the most popular interview questions, and practice how you would answer. Focus your responses on the organization, the position and your relevant qualifications and goals.
4. Understand the STAR method
During job interviews, many hiring managers ask behavioral questions to assess how candidates handle common situations in the workplace. To prepare for these questions, get to know the STAR method, which involves discussing the situation, task, action and result. To use this method, begin by explaining the context of the situation before discussing your role, or task in these circumstances. Next, reflect on the actions you took to handle the challenge and the result of your initiative.
5. Dress appropriately for your interview
To make a good impression on the hiring team, take steps to dress appropriately when you meet. Try reviewing the company’s website or social media profiles to research the employee dress code and use that to guide what you wear. In most cases, a business casual outfit—such as dress pants with a professional shirt—or a business formal suit will work best for interview attire.
Related: What to Wear to a Job Interview
6. Think about your questions in advance
Although interviewers often ask more questions than they answer, most expect candidates to show their interest in the job and company by asking informed questions. Try preparing these in advance by reflecting on what you want to know, from corporate culture and organizational goals to opportunities for professional development and growth.
7. Follow up after the interview
Once the interview ends, you can take additional actions to increase your chance of getting the job. Try sending a thank-you email to the hiring manager within a day after the interview. In the email, reiterate your interest in the position, and express your gratitude for the interview. If you do not receive a response within a week after the job listing closes, consider sending an additional follow-up email to express your continued enthusiasm for the position and interest in taking the next step in the hiring process.
Common job interview questions
To prepare for your interview, consider your answers for some common questions in advance. Below are five questions you are likely to receive in a job interview.
- Can you tell me about yourself?
- What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- Why do you want this position?
- Why are you leaving your job?
- Why should the company hire you?
Can you tell me about yourself?
Interviewers often start with this question to learn about your background. When you answer, try beginning by mentioning where you are now before briefly explaining how you advanced to your current position. By taking this tactic, you can establish your professional history and emphasize the most important aspects.
Example: “Currently, I am a junior personal trainer, and I have 25 recurring clients. In my three years as a fitness instructor, I have earned certifications in yoga and pilates, allowing me to specialize in these rapidly growing areas. Because I maintain a full client roster, I have also taken online sales courses. As a fitness enthusiast, I am also highly self-motivated and driven to share my excitement for health and well-being with my clients.”
What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
Employers typically ask about your strengths and weaknesses to learn more about areas where you excel and where you could improve. When you respond, mention your best technical and soft skills. To discuss your weaknesses, try to choose an area where you have already taken steps to improve. Using this strategy allows you to add a positive aspect to a question that has the potential to be negative.
Example: “After seven years of working in web design, I have mastered technical skills like visual design and user experience. Combined with my natural ability to solve problems and think analytically, these skills give me the power to work seamlessly with clients. However, during my first year of working in web design, I realized that I was not communicating clearly enough with clients, often resulting in extra work for me and frustration for my clients. I researched techniques for improving written and verbal communication, and as a result, I improved my productivity by 15%.”
Why do you want this position?
Hiring teams include this question in interviews to determine how well you understand the job and the company. When you receive this question, you have an opportunity to demonstrate how much you have researched the organization and the job opening. In your answer, try mentioning the company’s mission or accomplishments and the unique opportunities that the position offers.
Example: “The role aligns well with my experience and future goals. After working in a supervisory retail sales position for three years, I am adequately prepared to advance to a managerial role in the field. I am enthusiastic about the management and financial skills I can acquire through this position, and I am excited about working for an accomplished company that frequently exceeds its quarterly sales goals by 10% or more.”
Why are you leaving your job?
Employers often want to know why you are planning to transition out of your current role in the pursuit of a new position. When you answer, try to avoid mentioning anything negative about your current job or company. Instead, focus on positive aspects, such as seeking professional growth or looking for a greater challenge.
Example: “I have spent eight years developing my sales skills in my current company, and I’m ready to move into management. I hope to find a position in a new company where I can use my current skills while growing and managing a team of effective salespeople.”
Why should the company hire you?
Interviewers may ask this direct question to prompt you to explain why you are the best candidate for the job. In your response, try emphasizing your skills, experience and accomplishments while explaining how well your objectives fit with the company’s goals.
Example: “I am passionate about the marketing field and have taken steps to improve my skills and reach increasingly higher goals throughout my career. During 10 years in the field, I have advanced from a junior marketing role to a marketing manager position. Also, my objectives align well with the company’s mission to give back to the community while practicing smarter marketing.”